Cubs

Final 2015 MLB Power Rankings: Kansas City takes the crown

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Final 2015 MLB Power Rankings: Kansas City takes the crown

We'll admit it, we were wrong to doubt the Kansas City Royals.

In our preseason power rankings, we had the then-defending American League champs ranked No. 20 -- one spot behind the New York Mets, whom the Royals knocked off in five games to win their first World Series since 1985.

But the Royals swept the White Sox to begin the season and never stopped winning, going 95-67 in the regular season, storming back to beat the Astros in the ALDS and muting Toronto's power to reach the World Series. There, Kansas City became the first American League Central team to win the World Series since the White Sox in 2005. And in the process, hopefully every Royals player and staff member earned free Z-Mans for life from Oklahoma Joe's.

With that, CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz bring our 2015 MLB power rankings to a close. We'll see you next spring.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22 | Week 23 | Week 24

Rank Team
Last ranking Comment
1 5

Eric Hosmer’s hair-on-fire game-tying score in Game 5 perfectly summed up the world champs: Aggressive and never giving up. It also helped this team had the highest contact rate (81.9%) of any team in 2015, which was an antidote to the Mets’ power pitching.

2   6

What a miracle season for the Mets, who made it just three wins away from a championship despite entering the season with very little expected of them. A core of young pitching will help keep them competitive for years to come, but Daniel Murphy is about to become a free agent (and we know he won't hit like that forever) and Yoenis Cespedes is not expected to re-sign, either.

3 3

The American League’s most exciting team — seriously, that Jose Bautista bat flip was awesome — deserves plenty of credit for reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1993. But the drama with departed GM Alex Anthopolous is ridiculous, and leaves this franchise in limbo entering the offseason.

4   4

Cubs-Mets NLCS next year is an extremely popular prediction, but it's so much fun to think about a rematch, especially with another year under the belt for Cubs' young hitters and Mets' young pitchers.

5 1

They might've won 100 games, but they limped into the playoffs and were upstaged by the Cubs and Mets in the NL side of the postseason bracket. Of course, they'll be right back in the thick of things next season because they're the Cardinals.

6 2

A great team had just one game to try to beat the best pitcher in the universe and crack the playoff bracket, but they will get another shot to contend in 2016.

7 11

The franchise thought to still be in rebuilding mode surprised everyone by making aggressive deadline moves, reaching the playoffs and pushing the Royals to the brink of elimination in the ALDS. Fix the bullpen and this is a team that’ll contend for years in the AL West.

8 8

They may lose Zack Greinke, but the core pieces are still there and they have plenty of $$ to toss at the top free agents like David Price.

9 9

Won a thoroughly mediocre division thanks to an August/September surge. Cole Hamels wasn’t a one-year rental, either; he’s under team control through 2019.

10 7

Credit the late-career renaissances of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran for pushing the Yankees into the AL Wild Card game.

11 11

They win World Series every two years, so you can already pencil them in as 2016's champion.

12 10

Totaled 18.3 WAR from its position players (18th in MLB) despite having Mike Trout (9 WAR, 2nd in MLB).

13 14

A team with the best player in the NL (Bryce Harper) and some of the best pitchers in the game (Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer) shouldn't be too far from contention, no matter how disappointing the end of the 2015 season was.

14 13

Valiant effort to finish over .500 and make a legitimate push for a wild card spot. Continuing this success into 2016 won’t be an easy task, though.

15 15

Biggest win of the season was probably trading away Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.

16 17

They were right there in the AL Wild Card race the morning of Aug. 20, then lost 15 of their next 18 games.

17 19

Somewhat concerning is Evan Longoria’s regression during his prime: Has a pedestrian .744 OPS since the start of 2014 with 43 home runs; had an .870 OPS with an average of 27 home runs per season from 2008-2013.

18 18

Young core of position players will make this team a popular "sleeper" pick as a contender in 2016. They just need to add some pitching.

19 16

Big-money offseason acquisitions Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez combined for -2.8 WAR, while Wade Miley and Rick Porcello failed to stabilize a bad starting rotation.

20 21

Entered the year as our No. 1 American League team. Adding Nelson Cruz to the middle of the lineup, despite how well he hit the ball, turned out to not help much.

21 22

The slow starts of Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera, and the August implosion of Jeff Samardzija, crippled any hope the White Sox had of making the playoffs via a mediocre wild card race.

22 20 They won the offseason before 2015 and wound up with a wildly disappointing campaign. Expect them to be a lot more under the radar this winter and bounce back with a solid 2016. Because baseball works that way.
23 23

Did well to get Daniel Norris from Toronto in the David Price deal, but is there enough talent here to make one more playoff run?

24 24

If they get a full year of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, anything can happen. Oh yeah, and they don't have their GM running the show from the dugout, either, so that's gotta help.

25 26

Trading away Josh Donaldson looks like one of the biggest busts of the Billy Beane era.

26 27

After everything went right for the Brewers for the first four months or so of 2014, they've come crashing back to Earth the last 14-15 months. Milwaukee's luck will likely even out a bit in 2016, but they still only have a handful of core pieces still around.

27 25

Full-on rebuild mode for the Rockies, who traded away Troy Tulowitzki in the middle of the season and will probably shop Carlos Gonzalez this winter, too.

28 29

Made a couple nice strides in their complete overhaul, but they're still a few years away from contending.

29 28

Votto had a bounceback campaign, but the rest of the core had disappointing seasons or have been shipped out, so 2016 looks bleak.

30 30

Hey, at least it seems like they actually understand that in order to turn things around, they need to tear it all down. Wouldn't shock anybody if they were the worst team in baseball again next season.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”